Earlier this week, I moderated a particularly interesting panel at the 2019 World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland. My panelists included K.M. Szpara, David D. Levine and Lauren James.
Why are so many romantic aliens humanoid? There is a wealth of human/alien romance but, although they might have scales or extra arms, aliens are mostly depicted as humanoids. Are there any romantic aliens with other forms, or does it become too difficult to create a believable attraction? The panel will discuss how the SF romance genre portrays alien life and the possible reasons for those portrayals.
The topic of pheromones arose, those scientifically-known chemical substances produced and released into the environment by an animal, affecting the behavior or physiology of others of its species. There’s been plenty of scientific speculation about the actual existence of human pheromones for many years, but little or no clear-cut, irrefutable scientific evidence. So far. In the world of science fiction, however, pheromones can awaken romantic attraction between humans and nonhuman outer-space aliens, and even facilitate communication.
During the romantic alien panel, I mentioned my late husband’s comment, one he’d made many times to me during our 42-year marriage. “Keep smelling my armpit,” he used to say. “It’ll keep your periods regular.” As a matter of fact, “the pill” kept my periods regular for most of our first fifteen years together. Why had he joked otherwise? I certainly never needed an excuse to curl up against him at night. Plus I loved the natural odor of his armpits—at least BEFORE his axillary microbiome messed with his androstenol.
David was a pathologist, and his older brother, Franklyn, a neurologist. For many years, on Friday nights, they would gather with other male physicians at a local “watering hole” before heading toward their respective homes. My own trip home from work rarely coordinated with their Friday night schedule. Few of the gang remained by the time I retired. Still, I would sometimes manage to walk into a bar with a pathologist, a neurologist and an internist specializing in allergy. Conversation was always lively. But I never thought to ask about the BO-GYN (body odor-gynecology) thing.
So upon arriving home yesterday in California, USA, I decided to search the internet for any remaining evidence of a proposed BO-GYN connection. This is what I discovered.
First of all, back in May 2003, Nature Magazine announced that male armpit sweat calms female volunteers and can shift menstrual cycles.
As early as August 28, 1990, Lawrence K. Altman (The New York Times) reported about the ongoing work of Dr. George Preti of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, as follows:
Underarm odors have long been thought of as a means of communicating sexual and social messages. Links between smell and reproductive systems have been documented in animals.
Dr. Preti’s team is now working to develop a system to determine which of the underarm chemicals are responsible for altering the menstrual cycle.
For example, his team is investigating whether odors influence the secretion pattern of hormones from the human pituitary gland in the brain that in turn may modulate the menstrual cycle.
Wow! I could well imagine the local docs discussing all of this on a Friday night in a crowded bar. Plus Dr. Preti’s research work dates back to before my marriage to David AND he’s still studying the various odors given off by the human body—including odors produced by certain types of cancer.
Which brings me to the topic of man’s best friend, at least in our section of the galaxy. According to Science Daily on April 8, 2019, dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than ours, making them highly sensitive to odors we can’t perceive. A new study has shown that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy. The results could lead to new cancer-screening approaches that are inexpensive and accurate without being invasive.
And in closing, please check out the website for APOPO HeroRATS. HeroRATS can sniff out the location of landmines as well as detect the odor of patients with tuberculosis. APOPO HeroRATS has been one of my favorite charities for over ten years.
There’s a whole smelly world out there beyond BO-GYN.